CAMP KENGUN, Japan (Jan. 25, 2011) - Japan's senior leadership from its Ministry of Defense visited Camp Kengun in Kumamoto, Japan Jan. 18 to inspect the grounds and the soldiers there in preparation for the U.S.-Japan bilateral exercise, Yama Sakura 59, that began Jan. 22.

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and Japanese Ground Self Defense Force Chief of Staff Gen. Yoshifumi Hibako were escorted by Western Army Commander Lt. Gen. Shunzo Kizaki throughout the day, reviewing troop formations, visiting exercise facilities and addressing members of the Western Army who are participating in the exercise.

Yama Sakura is an annual, bilateral exercise with Japanese forces and the U. S. military. This year's exercise is a simulation-driven, joint-bilateral, command post exercise and is the 29th iteration of the Japan-based exercise series.

The exercise is designed to enhance U.S. and Japan combat readiness and interoperability while strengthening bilateral relationships and demonstrating U.S. resolve to support the security interests of friends and allies in the region. U.S. and Japanese forces exchange ideas, techniques, and military experiences during Yama Sakura.

The annual exercise marks the 29th time U.S. and Japanese Forces will conduct this command post exercise that also underscores the U.S.'s commitment to Japan's defense in accordance with a mutual defense treaty that was implemented in 1951 and revised in 1960. Yama Sakura was first held in 1982.

"A bilateral command post exercise improves our mutual capabilities, reinforces our ties and strengthens our relationships," said Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commander, U.S. Army Pacific and YS 59 exercise director. "We will prepare ourselves for future threats and enhance our relationship, as well as gaining a greater understanding concerning civil military operations. This exercise proves the strength of the longstanding relationship between the U.S. and Japan."

The U.S.-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of regional security, Mixon noted, and added that the long-standing bilateral relationship with Japan is a critical factor in ensuring regional security and economic growth.

"The U.S. is committed to working with its allies and partners to promote security and stability throughout the Pacific region," he said.

The focus of the Japan Defense Minister's visit was to ensure that the Western Army's preparations for the exercise were complete and that defense force members participating in the execise understood that their role in this exercise plays a much larger part in the overall U.S.-Japan alliance.

"I met Secretary of Defense, Mr. Gates, to improve defense cooperation between the U.S. and Japan. This discussion is nececessary not only at a high level, but also at a working level," Kitazawa said. "The new defense guidline describes a dynamic defense capability. Training needs to be substantial and each member in the (Japan Ground) Self Defense Force needs to impove his own skills. I would like you to work hard on daily operations.

"All of you protect your homeland, the land of Kyushu, where you grew up with your father and mother, friends and families. I expect your efforts in your daily work to reflect this responsibility."

Roughly 1,500 U.S. personnel and 4,500 Western Army Soldiers will participate in the exercise. U.S. units include USARPAC, I Corps Forward, and U.S. Army Japan. I Corps, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., will also support the exercise with about 30 to 70 participants.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16